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Monday, November 9, 2015

If vaccines are so safe, why fear the willingly unvaccinated?

Okay folks, as seems to be the norm lately, this is going to be based on a Facebook meme that's been making the rounds, showing up in my feed several times a day, and royally pissing me off. This time I held off on making any comments, at least on-line. Especially after I read the comments. I am going to try and paint a picture for you. Imagine, there are 2 women, one wearing a red dress and pointing at the other, who seems mildly surprised. In the upper 1/3 of the image it says "Why would my unvaccinated kids be a threat to your vaccinated kids, if you are so sure vaccines work?" In the bottom 1/3 it says "NaturalNews" Yep. Fucking NaturalNews being used as a source of information to prove that vaccines don't really work. Or at least confirming certain peoples biases. Great. Bloody, flamin' great. I was very tempted to try and clarify that they do work, and have been shown to be effective, but I opted to read the comments first. Then I closed Facebook, got up, and contemplated slamming my head into a tree. Unfortunately, these sorts of sentiments aren't uncommon, though they aren't exactly rare either. The anti-vaccine movement has actually existed since Jenner gave the first smallpox vaccine, so roughly 219 years ago, as of 2015. Or you can go farther back to a process called variolation. There is a fascinating website called "History of vaccines" with an amazing timeline that you can see here. Because the history of vaccines is surprisingly long and detailed, and there is no way I could do it justice, I am not going to really get into it much. However, I am going to talk about how, much like the zombies from "The Walking Dead", we should fear the willingly unvaccinated.

Vaccines:

Lets start with a definition, shall we? A vaccine is, according to Dictionary.com, :  any preparation used as a preventive inoculation to confer immunity against a specific disease, usually employing an innocuous form of the disease agent, as killed or weakened bacteria or viruses, to stimulate antibody production.

There are also 2 main types of vaccines. The first is called a "Live Attenuated" vaccine. These are created by modifying a living virus into a form that is no longer as virulent. The second form is called an "Inactivated" vaccine. These are created by killing the virus, either by formaldehyde or heat. In either case, the main purpose of a vaccine is to cause a reaction in the body's immune system similar to the actual disease. This causes the creation of antibodies that will recognize the virus in the future and attack it. Neither type of vaccine will have any sort of an effect on bacteria. There are vaccines for most disease causing viruses, with a few notable exceptions. Ebola is one that has received a lot of attention in the past year, though they are fast tracking at least 1 viable vaccine. AIDS, of course, is another, though there is hope that one may developed soon. Vaccines have played an enormous role in not only protecting people from some pretty serious illnesses, but in expanding our life expectancy, reducing infant mortality, and improving our overall quality of life.

A brief look at the anti-vaccer arguments:
Lets take a quick look at some of the arguments that the anti-vaccination crowd often uses as their reasoning for what they believe.
A major talking point for the anti-vaccination crowd are the ingredients in vaccines, namely the MMR (Mumps, Measles, and Rubella). You will often hear them complain about the toxic materials in the shots such as formaldehyde, mercury, the virus itself, and Thimerosal ( a type of mercury). Funny thing is, in the MMR vaccine, it has never had Thimerosal. As a matter of fact, very few vaccines do, or ever have. The FDA has an interesting page on Thimerosal in vaccines, which you can look at here. I really recommend looking at it, it's pretty interesting, and it will give you some facts and figures on various vaccines. The reason that Thimerosal and mercury are the major issues is due to the Wakefield study, which claimed there was a link between autism and vaccinations. This line of thinking has been disproven dozens of times in independent studies, the paper retracted, Wakefield has lost his license to practice medicine because of how he performed the study and basically lying about the results. Yet many people will still claim it's the truth because it confirms their personally held beliefs.
Another argument that you might hear is "Too many, too soon".(I have also seen 2 many 2 soon and two many two soon.) The thinking behind this is that children today are getting too many vaccinations, which in turn leads to a toxic buildup of dangerous chemicals. Once again, wrong. The vaccination schedule is carefully considered by medical professionals before being recommended. I seriously doubt that they aren't going to hold their kids to the same schedule as everyone else. If they thought it was dangerous, they would recommend against it. Simple as that.
And yet another argument is that the diseases are mild, and nothing to be concerned about. This is not only wrong, but dangerous thinking. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella are all 3 dangerous diseases that can easily lead to multiple problems, including encephalitis, miscarriages, sterility in men, and even death. Ironically, Rubella infections while pregnant, may actually be responsible for some cases of autism. Much of this information, I found on the AntiAntiVax site, which has links to their sources. Anecdotally, I will also say that, as someone that has had the measles, I do not want to see anyone suffer through that.
Another oft repeated bit of drivel is that it wasn't vaccinations that reduced or eradicated diseases, it was sanitation. While it's true that sanitation has played a very important role in preventing or limiting the spread of various diseases, it is a minor player when compared to the effect that vaccinations have had. There are areas of the world where sanitation is limited, if not non-existent, and yet diseases are relatively kept in check by vaccinations. There have been multiple cases where the sanitation was adequate, and yet disease outbreaks kept happening. For an example of this, look up Typhoid Mary.A quick synopsis is: Typhoid Mary was a cook for several wealthy families. Generally speaking, the wealthy didn't suffer from many of the more communicable diseases. However, the people that Mary worked for kept catching Typhoid Fever. Turns out she was a carrier for the disease.
There are other arguments that crop up, such as "It's against God's will", and "They aren't natural" or "Diseases are a part of nature", and "They cause cancer" and so on. The ones I mentioned above are the primary Big Four that you will probably hear most often.

Why to fear the willingly unvaccinated
There are a few reasons why you should fear the unvaccinated. It's not because you think that unvaccinated kids might get your vaccinated kid sick. Nor is it because you have any doubts about the efficacy of vaccinations. These are horrible misrepresentations of the true reasons that people should, at the very least, be wary of the willingly unvaccinated. The first one is because of the people that are unable to be vaccinated. By this, I mean folks that are already immunocompromised, are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine, or are too young to receive the vaccine. These people are at the greatest risk of contracting an illness. The very young, the very old, and the immunocompromised, are also at the greatest risk of dying from any of the vaccine preventable illnesses. All it takes is 1 person that is shedding a virus at a daycare to do some serious damage. There are also entire communities, such as the Amish, that could be wiped out by some of these diseases because, for the most part, they aren't vaccinated either. Their main form of protection is their isolation from society at large. I don't really approve of religious exemptions from vaccinations, but as a single person, there isn't much I can do.
A secondary reason to avoid the anti-vaccination crowd is that vaccines do on occasion fail. The failure rate for the MMR vaccine is roughly 2-5%. It's hard to get an exact figure because you don't know it failed until you're exposed and catch the illness. The CDC has some interesting information and figures here. Another reason that they might fail is because the target virus may have mutated or altered in an unforeseen way, such as the flu. While the vaccination may not completely stop you from catching the disease, it can still help mitigate the effects and make it less transmissible to other people. Vaccines may also fail if they are improperly made, if the virus is already established in the bodies cells, and on occasion the maternal antibodies will interfere with the vaccination. Also, there is a slight chance that the vaccine may have become denatured either during storage, or during administration. Even given the reasons a vaccine might fail, the odds are still in your favor if you go ahead and get it.
Finally, there are a couple of little things called The Germ Theory of Disease and Fomite Transmission! As you should hopefully know, the germ theory explains that diseases are caused by microorganisms. Fomite transmission is where a disease is transferred by contaminated equipment, clothing, or any other inanimate object. Anyone, vaccinated or not, can accidentally carry a virus from one location to another. That's one of the things that makes the flu such a bitch for the medical community to try and keep it under control. That, and the fact it changes faster than a politician during an election year. While most viruses can be transferred from location to location, each type has a different habitat in the human body. Some will live in mucus, other in the saliva, and yet others in various bodily fluids. They also have differing amounts of time that they can survive outside of the host body, ranging from mere minutes to years. As you can probably imagine, the unvaccinated crowd will probably have a higher virus load on their clothing and skin, which means that they will have a higher chance of infecting people that they come into contact with.

Conclusion:
I could have easily gone into the increase in deaths from vaccine preventable illnesses, the idea of community (or herd) immunity, talk about the diseases eliminated by vaccines (rinderpest and smallpox and almost polio), the problems with religious and personal belief exemptions to vaccinations, or even discuss the Wakefield study and why it was found to be full of errors and misrepresentations. Those have all been done repeatedly by folks that are much more intelligent and better writers than I could ever hope to be. Instead, I've opted to be blunt and say simply fear people that will willingly avoid getting themselves and their children vaccinated. And pity them for their overwhelming fear and mistrust.

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